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Partners Inspire and Equip a New Generation of Haitians

For children living in extreme poverty in Haiti, completing education is grueling. To pay their way through school, students take a couple of years off to work and then return when they have saved enough. Many are in their late 20's by the time they graduate. They've had limited exposure to career paths, with only nurses and teachers as role models.

IAMCP WIT (International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners-Women in Technology community) is setting out to change that reality for a deserving group of Haitian young people, equipping them to go farther.

Gail Mercer-MacKay witnessed the adversity and limitations young Haitians experience first-hand in 2016. In conjunction with IAMCP and Harvest for Humanity, Mercer-MacKay travelled to Haiti to help a school recovering from the earthquake. Carrying the $6,000 donated by generous partners around her waist in a cash belt, Mercer-MacKay had been advised that Haiti requires unconventional tactics. Both shocked and inspired by her first visit, Mercer-MacKay set out to do more, enlisting the women of the Microsoft partner community to join.

"I was so moved by the people I met. They are resilient and smart. The young girls who can't afford education don't give up. They work so hard and overcome incredible challenges to complete their education," said Mercer-MacKay. "As a result of going there and seeing what is possible, I realized that we could and should do more."

Partnering with Harvest for Humanity, IAMCP WIT is undertaking a three-pronged approach to help Haitian young people whose education has stalled and set the stage for the next generation of technologists. WIT chapters, Microsoft partners and individuals are joining to support the initiatives, which include a conference, educational sponsorship and a technology lab. There are plenty of opportunities to participate in the upcoming projects, which include:

  • The IAMCP WIT Conference, to be held August 11, will educate young Haitians about the types of careers they can pursue in technology and how to prepare. The one-day conference will offer 100 young girls a glimpse into the possibilities and options available in STEM. Speakers will include technologists who have had similar life experiences to the girls in the audience. The conference will be staffed by volunteers who have paid their own way and sponsored a Haitian student. Opportunities to participate are still available.  
  • Educational sponsorships to support a select group of Haitian girls who want to pursue STEM education at the university level. WIT chapters, partners and individuals can sponsor one of these deserving women. Profiles of these extraordinary young women are beyond inspiring.
  • To continue the momentum after the conference, IAMCP WIT is establishing a new computer lab in a Haitian school to expose an even wider group of students to technology. Microsoft has donated software and the lab is looking for additional software to further the students' education. In addition, funds are being solicited to support a full-time teacher for the lab. Learning partners will be engaged to provide additional training opportunities for students.  

Microsoft has chosen the Women's Conference in Haiti as the designated charity for the annual and wildly popular Women in Technology luncheon at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference this July. The support from within the IAMCP WIT community has been tremendous. Several chapters have already signed on for educational sponsorships, with more in the works.

Mercer-MacKay has been thrilled with the response to help Haiti's youth, but not surprised, "I think, for most Microsoft partners, there is a strong desire to give back. Many partners include giving back to the community in their mission statements. We are grateful for what we have and find it hard to believe there is such a different life experience for people who live so close to us geographically."

If you would like to find out how you can support IAMCP WIT's efforts in Haiti, email Gail Mercer-MacKay, Shann McGrail or Maia Moates for more information.

Posted by Barb Levisay on March 15, 2018 at 10:47 AM